Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Racial Incarceration Statistics, and the Race to Action

A recent article in the Wilmington News Journal by astute, Al Mascitti, discusses a study regarding differential incarceration rates in Delaware (PDF) amongst the races. I have read the study, and found it to be interesting and worthy of follow-up.

What is in the report on the study which seems to have been overlooked, is that we don't yet know the cause of the problem. The report recommends, and rightly so, that we should follow up with a study to see how the Truth In Sentencing Guidelines are being applied to defendants, and to see how defendants' previous criminal records fit into the picture.

Most of the commentary in the report itself, and that quoted by Mr. Mascitti from other speakers, would seem to have us draw unsubstantiated conclusions and run off and take some other action (although perhaps I misunderstand the suggestion).

I agree that the data suggests a problem and that we should work energetically to evaluate it further. It would be irresponsible and ineffective however, to take some other sort of direct action when we don't yet even know specifically what the problem is that we are attempting to fix.

UPDATE - In this Sunday's News Journal the author of the report, Thomas P. Eichler, speaks out on the topic. I think his comments are reasonable and on point, even if not empirically supported. What are your thoughts?

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